She also serves as US Assistant Secretary of Health
On Tuesday, the Biden administration swore in the nation’s first openly transgender four-star officer in one of America’s eight uniformed services.
Rachel Levine, already US assistant secretary for public health, became an admiral in the US Public Health Service Corps, a 6,000-person service that sends government medical officials to respond to health crises like Covid or natural disasters.
“I stand before you in this uniform ready to be a beacon in these dark days of Covid-19, working to serve you and this great nation,” she said during remarks on Tuesday.
“I am honored to serve as the first female four-star officer of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corp and the first openly transgender four-star officer to serve across any of the eight uniformed services.”
The Corps, which was established in 1889, is one of the nation’s uniformed services, alongside the six military services and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, which pilots research vessels.
“This is a momentous occasion, and it’s an honour to take this role for the impact I can make, and the historic nature of what it symbolises. I stand on the shoulders of those LGBTQ+ individuals who came before me, both those known and unknown,” Admiral Levine added. “Diversity makes us stronger.”
Health officials and diversity advocates celebrated the appointment.
“Admiral Levine’s historic appointment as the first openly transgender four-star officer is a giant step forward toward equality as a nation,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
“Congratulations Dr. Rachel Levine on making history once again” added GLAAD.
Some conservatives lashed out at the news, with Tom Fitton, president of the conservative legal group judicial watch, calling the appointment “playing quota politics with public health service”.
Dr Levin is the former Pennsylvania health secretary, and was a top doctor at Pennsylvania State University Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where her work included facilitating groups with LGBT+ patients. She transitioned in 2011.
Joe Biden promised his administration would be the most diverse in US history.
“I promise you, you’ll see the most diverse Cabinet representative of all folks – Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ – across the board,” he said in December.
So far, notable strides in representation have occurred, such as Kamala Harris becoming the first Black person and person of South Asian descent to be vice-president. Fifty-eight per cent of his agency nominees have been women, and his cabinet has included the first female Secretary of the Treasury, the first Native American Secretary of the Interior, and the first woman of colour to chair the Council of Economic Advisors.